A recent challenge Associate Software Engineer Lillian McGillivray and her peers at Drata faced wasn’t related to code — it was a competition to see who could build the best soda-bottle rocket.
For several days during an off-site in Mexico, McGillivray and the rest of Drata’s engineering and product team members took part in brainstorming sessions, demos and team-building activities, including this rocket-building contest.
“It was a great way to get to know other people,” McGillivray said.
Everyone in the company — including leaders — took part in the festivities. According to Director of Software Engineering Reid von Gunten, it’s not uncommon to see higher-ups alongside individual contributors, even when it comes to technical work.
“From our CTO to our senior engineering managers, everyone loves to get into the code,” he said.
What Drata Does
Drata’s security and compliance automation platform continuously monitors and collects evidence of an organization’s security controls, resulting in a strong security posture and less time spent preparing for annual audits. The company’s mission is to make compliance effortless and accessible.
The company wants technical leaders who are involved in the daily grind. Von Gunten said this reflects Drata’s engineering-focused perspective, which means the company values the actual work developers do rather than solely concentrating on operating costs.
“Our engineers aren’t just another line item on a balance sheet,” von Gunten said.
The company not only ensures its people can develop innovative technology, it enables them to prioritize what’s important to them.
“We take pride in how much we push ourselves, yet we also ensure everyone maintains work-life balance,” said VP of Data Lior Solomon.
Guided by this humanistic perspective, team members at Drata embrace both their work and their friendships with each other in a way that reflects the company’s core values and echoes its energizing, forward-thinking nature.
Drata's Core Values
- Built on Trust
- Act With Integrity
- Customer Obsessive
- Competitive Fire
- Automation First
Driven By Passion and Values
For McGillivray and her teammates, each day offers a new chance to help build “the best product in the world.”
Her team focuses mostly on implementing compliance frameworks, which requires constant iteration. Their work encapsulates the core value, “Customer Obsessive,” guided by the desire to consistently — and optimally — address customers’ needs.
“We ask ourselves, ‘How quickly can we automate these frameworks and get them into the hands of current and future customers? How do we make that user experience as efficient and pleasurable as possible?’” McGillivray said.
McGillivray said everyone at Drata is proud of the work they do and is always striving to make their technology even better. In other words, they’re all inspired by a “Competitive Fire.”
“Here, you’re surrounded by people who are super smart, driven and truly in love with the company,” McGillivray said.
“Here, you’re surrounded by people who are super smart, driven and truly in love with the company.”
According to von Gunten, the team’s unrelenting dedication to serve customers goes hand in hand with the core value, “Built on Trust.” As team members make it possible for the company’s clients to display trust to their own clients, they’re fostering assurance among themselves, as well.
He explains that the engineering team doesn’t follow a “throw-it-over-the-fence” approach to development. Rather, engineers work closely with the QA team every day, ensuring everyone is building and deploying new technology and sharing information in unison.
“We’re all trusting each other to build up those core competencies and exchange knowledge between the different teams,” von Gunten said.
As team members work in tandem to drive transformation, they’re also embracing the company’s core value of an automation-led approach. Von Gunten said the teams automate manual tasks to build up efficiency over time while safeguarding the longevity of applications.
While every team member’s work echoes the Integrity value, the tasks performed by the company’s data professionals captures this idea most entirely. Guided by a commitment to data integrity, Solomon’s team over-indexes when building trust with stakeholders.
As he and his peers seek new ways to improve the quality of the data they give to stakeholders, they rely on individuals with varied backgrounds to uncover solutions, embracing the company’s “Diversity” value.
“Hiring diverse talent is really critical for us,” Solomon said. “This supports how innovative we can be in regards to the type of solutions we might suggest to stakeholders.”
A Cutting-Edge Tech Stack
Accomplishing values-driven work requires constant evolution — and for some, it involves embracing unexpected opportunities.
This was the case for McGillivray. She never thought she would work at a tech company like Drata — let alone as a software engineer. McGillivray began her career in management consulting before deciding to dedicate her time to being a mother for several years.
Having developed an interest in engineering during her time in consulting, she eventually enrolled in a full-stack software development bootcamp and discovered Drata, which had partnered with the course. Upon interning, she was asked to join the company as a full-time employee.
While McGillivray was nervous when she first stepped into her role, the company made it clear that she deserved a seat at the table.
“A company like Drata doesn’t have to hire someone like me who learned how to code not too long ago, yet they see value in my perspective,” McGillivray said.
She added that all engineers, regardless of their level of experience, have chances to stretch their skills by working on complex projects. The fast-paced nature of their work — which the team calls “Drata speed” — enables team members to endlessly evolve.
Sometimes this evolution happens as a team. For instance, “Feel Good Fridays” give engineers the chance to discuss topics they’re excited about with their peers.
“This is a space where you’re forever learning,” McGillivray said.
“This is a space where you’re forever learning.”
For von Gunten, an emphasis on autonomy empowers employees to accomplish impactful work and acquire new skills in the process.
“We want to make it so that our teams don’t need to rope in everybody across the entire organization just to get something to production,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone has an opportunity to learn.”
Prioritizing Personal Connection
Although Drata team members may live across the globe, they have plenty of ways to get together in person. Employees regularly host meetups specific to the city in which they live. For instance, von Gunten and other colleagues based in Denver have met up at local breweries on several occasions.
From a remote perspective, Solomon said that data team members engage in a monthly event called “Data Unite.” During this event, he and his peers play games together online so they can build personal connections.
Drata may be focused on speed and efficiency, yet the company still carves out plenty of time for rest and relaxation.
Considering the fast-paced nature of their work, team members are encouraged to recharge. Von Gunten said flexible PTO empowers everyone to take time off when they need it, while a personal growth stipend enables employees to invest in their hobbies, whether that involves pottery classes or a gym membership.
According to von Gunten, a culture that encourages fellowship and work-life balance isn’t merely a nice-to-have feature. In fact, it’s critical to driving progress.
“Engineers who have fun also work and ideate better,” Von Gunten said. “They look at future tasks, not just the tasks in front of them.”
“Engineers who have fun also work and ideate better.”
At Drata, every day is filled with innovation — and connection. While team members can’t always come together to build sandcastles on a beach in Mexico, they still bond with each other on a regular basis.
Even the smallest gestures of camaraderie — such as a humorous Slack message or a virtual high-five from a peer — help create a space that inspires, empowers and connects people.
“Our culture is incredible,” McGillivray said. “It really can’t be put into words.”